Survivors

Survivors
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  • Jennifer
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  • Hi, I am a sister of someone fighting for her life against this horrible disease. I guess I never knew much about it, and as is often the case, things like this just don\^t seem to hit home until it\^s someone you love or yourself.
    My sister is an OB/Gyn, very aware of the HPV/Cancer link, and always making her patients aware. She vaccinated her daughters. You know what they say about doctors being the worst patients. She had been bleeding irregularly for about 2 years and assumed she just had hormonal issues, since she treats so many women with the same symptoms that can be treated hormonally. She hadn\^t had a PAP in 7 years. She DID, however, perform several HPV tests on herself, as she suspected her husband of infidelity. Each time it came back negative, and she chalked it up to paranoia.
    She treated herself with birth control pills for 2 years, until the bleeding just couldn\^t be controlled at all. She looked for a doctor to do a hysterectomy, and she just happened to choose a gynecological oncologist because of his excellent surgical record.
    During the exam, he said he suspected cancer. My sister laughed and wanted to kick herself for choosing an oncologist--of course he would find cancer, right?
    He did an ultrasound, and all this tissue and blood came rushing out. Pathology first indicated an extremely rare form of uterine cancer, although the doctor maintained he believed it to be cervical.
    Meanwhile, my sister became more suspicious of her husband and gradually found out things she never wanted to know. Yes, he had been unfaithful, and with multiple partners, including a prostitute. Subsequent pathology reports, including one from U. Mass., have said cervical cancer.
    Since then, she\^s had a radical hysterectomy, chemo, and radiation, and although the HPV still reads negative, her oncologist says that if they did cellular studies, he firmly believes they\^d find it.
    Now she\^s had a blockage in the colon due to radiation damage. During surgery to remove the blockage, the doctor removed her appendix, which was covered with cancer, and tried to remove multiple little pockets of cancer. He couldn\^t remove all of them because they were so numerous.
    He also says that much of the colon is stiff from radiation damage and that another blockage is most probably down the road. She\^s looking at a possible colostomy, if she survives long enough.
    Her doctor is going to start her on Topotecan and Lovaxin, although I\^m not sure if they will be at the same time or separately. I\^m quite angry at her doctor for not offering these medications before. He is a Harvard graduate, and he should be keeping up with the latest medications. He has treated women with Topotecan himself since 2000! I\^m battling a lot of rage, most pointedly at her husband.
    My sister is lying in ICU right now because some spillage during the surgery to repair the blockage in her colon has caused an infection, probably E. Coli.
    I want to make women aware of the incredible risks of cervical cancer. I was a typical woman, ignoring annual PAP smears because I \"didn\^t have any of the risk factors\". How naive and snooty I was!
    When I tell people about my sister, no one seems to know what HPV is, even with all the commercials for the vaccine. I want the word to get out to women everywhere, whether they are married or not, whether they are monogamous or not, that the risk is real. If you are married, I hope you trust your husband. Regardless, be safe. Get a PAP. I am, and I trust my husband implicitly.
    So many factors can be at play. Relationships prior to a current one, even a totally monogamous one, can be the culprit. And even if HPV is the cause of 99% of the cancers, there\^s still the 1%....
    No one should have to go through what my sister\^s going through. She\^s not yet 41. She only got to practice medicine for around 12 years. She\^s delivered countless babies, saved several lives (babies and women), and taken care of women who weren\^t pregnant as well. She won\^t ever be able to do these things again. Even if she finds a miracle drug, she will never be able to return to work. She\^s incredibly weakened. She still faces a probable colostomy sooner or later.
    She has two daughters, one almost 19, and one almost 12. They need their mother.
  • 07-22 -2008
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